Eloise Navarro, UO Climate Justice League, firstname.lastname@example.org
Noah Rott, Sierra Club, email@example.com
Eugene, Oregon - Late yesterday, over 20 organizations submitted a letter to the University of Oregon's (UO) Interim President and Board of Trustees calling on the university to transition its buildings off of fossil fuels. The letter calls for the replacement of the university's gas boilers, which are the single largest source of carbon pollution in Eugene, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, and make up 72 percent of the university’s total GHG emissions.
“Students at the University of Oregon have been calling for the UO to take bold climate action to reduce emissions and make campus a healthy and sustainable space for all for well over a decade,” said Eloise Navarro, a student at UO and the Co-Director of the University of Oregon Climate Justice League. “The Board of Trustees must take this unique opportunity to substantially reduce emissions and increase resilience and commit to building a fossil free campus. We cannot wait any longer for the university to take concrete steps to reduce its emissions and transition off of fossil fuels.”
Students, alumni and faculty are expected to testify in support of a commitment from the UO Interim President and Board of Trustees to transition the campus off of fossil fuels during the public forum at Board of Trustees’ quarterly meeting on December 6 at 9 a.m. Sustainability Director Steve Mital will also present on replacing the fossil fuel boilers currently being used to heat the campus at the meeting on December 5 during the Finance and Facilities Committee meeting.
The university set and reaffirmed carbon neutrality goals but has yet to make plans to transition its boiler system, which emit over 22,000 metric tons of carbon annually. The City of Eugene's Climate Recovery Ordinance includes targets to reduce fossil fuel use by 50 percent of 2010 levels by 2030, putting the boilers at odds with local climate goals.
“The University of Oregon has a responsibility to our community, and our local government to follow our city’s goals to mitigate the climate crisis,” said Dylan Plummer, a UO alumni and a Senior Campaign Representative with the Sierra Club. “As Eugene pursues policies to electrify its buildings, it’s critical that the University of Oregon sets an example for others to follow by making a commitment to pursue electrification and the transition off of fossil fuels.”
Climate advocacy at the University of Oregon has been ongoing for over a decade. In 2019, hundreds of students and faculty submitted a letter calling on the university to transition off of fossil fuels in line with the International Panel on Climate Change’s recommendations.
“My peers and I started asking the university to switch to an electric heating system in early 2017. It is now almost 2023. Students have shown their support for climate action again and again through protests, letters, petitions, and referendums,” said Selena Blick, a UO alumni and former director of UO Climate Justice League. “It is time for the UO to be accountable to its students, its alumni, and its community and transition off of fossil fuels.”
The University of Oregon would not be the first campus to transition from methane gas. Stanford and Princeton have both taken steps and Oregon State University has already committed to electrifying its buildings and is in the beginning phases of implementing the transition as part of its Path to Carbon Neutrality.
“The technology exists today to electrify large district heating plants,” said Jonny Kocher, a senior associate with non-partisan energy think-tank RMI. “Technology such as heat recovery chillers, geothermal heat exchange, and thermal energy storage tanks have been successfully installed at other large campuses to dramatically reduce emissions, increase resilience and balance the grid.”
Local campaigns to transition the City of Eugene's buildings off fossil fuels have picked up in recent years. Just recently, over 100 community members rallied in support of proposed electrification policy in the City of Eugene, urging council to pass an ordinance requiring all-electric new residential construction to reduce climate emissions and harmful air pollution.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.